Dawning Outlines

The sun rose on the shortest day of the year, drawing a bright line of light across the across the Alps. It’s easy today to focus on the longest night, the coming winter, the darkness of the months ahead. But I am choosing to focus on that ribbon of sunshine. This is one of my…

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Dawn or Dusk

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which it is, dawn or dusk. Getting brighter for a sunny day, or darker for a long night? How to tell the difference? Obviously, it all depends on the direction you’re facing. In this case, I was facing east. It was a dawn that was coming up all soft pinks…

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Turtle Chirps, Volcanic Whistles

Anathasius Kircher, a 17th-century German Jesuit priest and scholar, had interests ranging from fossils to hieroglyphics to micro-organisms and volcanoes, was above all a master of expressing wonder at the natural world. He proposed, among many other things, the idea of a parabolic horn, an amplification system for sound waves. In the illustration below, the…

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